By: Candess Zona-Mendola
There is breaking news this morning out of Yucaipa, California. Last night, Saturday, March 25, 2017, at the 39300 Block of Oak Glen Road, multiple emergency first responders rushed to the scene of the Oak Glen Christian Conference Center where at least as 20 people are ill for suspected severe food poisoning. The details of this story are still unraveling, and UnsafeFoods will continue to follow the reports as they trickle in.
What We Know
At approximately 8:20PM Pacific Time, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) was called to the Oak Glen Christian Conference Center in Yucaipa, California with reports of several people with severe illness symptoms. Several emergency crews responded to the scene, and immediately commenced care for those who were ill, and an investigation into the source of the illnesses. According to Cal Fire Spokeswoman Debbie Chapman during an interview with The Press Enterprise, as of 10:30PM Pacific Time last night, the authorities were unable to confirm the cause or causes of the mystery illnesses.
At least 13 of those ill were transported to several hospitals in the general vicinity of the Oak Glen Christian Conference Center by the first responders. An additional 7 people were also affected, according to another Cal Fire official who was interviewed by CBS Local Los Angeles. According to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Grant Malinowski, the case counts of those ill could be as many as 21 people. The authorities describe the illnesses as severe food poisoning symptoms and minor injuries.
Ten ambulances and as many as five fire units responded to the call, according to Chapman. These purportedly include: Cal Fire, Yuciapa Fire, and Riverside County Fire departments. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office was also called in to assist with the transport of those ill and the investigation. American Medical Response ambulances transported those ill to the nearby hospitals.
The age ranges of those ill is currently unknown. The authorities interviewed declined responses to local media questions concerning the ages of those affected. However, according to the LoudLabs News on Facebook, there are unconfirmed reports that minor children are among those afflicted with the mystery illness. It is also unknown at this time if it is a meal implicated or other food source responsible for the illnesses. The authorities continue to investigate the case at this time.
What is Oak Glen Christian Conference Center?
Opened in 1956, the Oak Glen Christian Conference Center was built with the intention for a place for churches to hold youth and family retreats, local conferences, Christian conferences, and various other camp activities. For example, the Los Angeles Pacific College utilizes the center as a location for its faculty conferences. The center is nestled in a woodsy location, and allows for overnight accommodations. The center is marketed as a place to meet, enjoy outdoor activities, conduct meetings, worship in a secluded setting, and have a “mountaintop experience.” According to the conference center’s website:
“Bring your group to our mountain, where you’ll find restful accommodations, flexible meeting spaces, scrumptious all-you-can-eat food service, and dozens of outdoor and indoor activities. Whether you’re planning a camp for a couple hundred rowdy kids or a quiet retreat with a small group of adults—or something in between—our world-class amenities and competent, caring staff make Oak Glen Christian Conference Center a mountaintop experience just waiting to happen.”
The camp is all-inclusive, and serves three meals per day on site buffet style with a full salad bar at both lunch and dinner. Dinner is served at 5:30PM. The center’s website explains its food service as,
“You don’t want to miss a meal at Oak Glen! Enjoy all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our dining hall. Our talented food-service staff provides delicious and well-balanced menus, and has a flair for adding something special to every meal they serve. Plus, our caring and capable staff handle all of the meal preparation beforehand and cleanup afterward. No scraping plates, sorting silverware, washing tables or stacking chairs, and more time to enjoy the natural beauty and activities offered here!”
The typical, or rather favorite mainstay dinner meal, is comprised of roasted herb chicken, green beans, rice pilaf, salad bar, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert, according to their online menu. Assorted juices, coffee, and tea are also served.
For more information about the Oak Glen Christian Conference Center, you can visit their website here.
What Happens Now?
At this time the local authorities, and most likely the local health agency, are investigating the potential source of the illnesses. The first and foremost concern is the well-being of those who are ill. At this time, it is unknown if those ill are still in the emergency room, have been admitted for hospitalization, or have been released.
In matters such as these, the health agency will follow up with those who were stricken with the illness and conduct interviews. If a food poisoning diagnosis has occurred from any of the hospitals, a foodborne pathogen (or cause for the illness) may also be isolated. It is unknown at this time as to what diagnosis these illnesses may be, or if the last meal served at the center is suspected as the cause of those illnesses. It is a common practice for the local authorities and the health agency to obtain samples of any leftover food or beverages from the scene to test for any potential dangers. Depending on the nature of the kitchen or the meal, food samples from more than just the last meal served will be taken, as well as samples of the water from the location and other food sources. A general health inspection is likely to occur. The dangers may be bacterial or viral in nature, but chemical or other contamination will not necessarily be immediately ruled out. At this time, the authorities have not released any details of their suspicions or suspected leads.
UnsafeFoods will continue to monitor the investigation into this mystery outbreak as the details continue to unfold.